Be afraid

This is the scariest thing I’ve read in awhile, at least locally. Schoolgirls being gassed in Afghanistan is much scarier, but locally the Child Evangelism Fellowship is scary as hell. Good News Clubs are terrifying.

Remember the little girl who told her classmate that she was going to hell? Well that was a Good News Club at work.

Their teacher overheard the increasingly heated exchange. When class resumed, she asked everyone to pay attention. People from different religious backgrounds, she explained, have very different perspectives on certain kinds of issues. Emma, feeling good that she had stood her ground, seemed content with the result. But Ashley was crushed. “You mean they lied to me right here in school?!” she began to cry. “Because that’s what they taught me here! How can they lie?”

Because they aren’t actually part of the school but they seem to be, thus giving small children the impression that they are Teachers telling The Truth.

Because the Good News Club seeks to reach children who in many cases are not old enough to read, a centerpiece of its program is the “wordless book,” a simple picture book intended to convey different Evangelical doctrines…The Good News Club aims to use afterschool facilities as soon as possible after the bell rings. Aside from adding to the convenience for students and parents, this maximizes the possibility of contact with non-participating students. It also has the effect of making it difficult for very young children to distinguish between the Good News Club and the other classes they take in school.

And that’s not just a by-product, it’s part of the point.

The club’s best promoters, as the CEF well understands, are the children themselves. Participating students are instructed to invite their classmates to join the group, and prizes are often given to those who succeed. The group’s focus, indeed, is concentrated on the “un-churched” children more than it is on those already in the fold. “If every public elementary school student in the United Sates could join a Good News Club,” the CEF Web site states, “we could revolutionize our culture in one generation!” In short, the confusion Ashley evinced on the playground about just what her school was teaching her was no accident. It is built into the design of the Good News Club program. The average six-year-old cannot reliably distinguish between programs taught by his/her school and those taught in his/her school; and the CEF may be determined to make use of this fact in order to advance its religious aims.

Bad…but at least schools can say No, right? Parents can say No and the schools can say No. Right?

No.

In 2001, in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that to exclude the club on the grounds that it is a religious group is to discriminate against its particular religious viewpoint, in violation of 1st Amendment protections on the freedom of speech. The court also went out of its way to say that it could conceive of no basis for concern about a possible violation of the clause of the 1st Amendment that prohibits the establishment of religion. The author of the court’s majority opinion was Clarence Thomas. It is perhaps interesting to note, in that respect, that in a recent speech before a school group, Justice Thomas reminisced fondly about his own school days when he would see “a flag and a crucifix in each classroom.”

Fucking hell – where have I been? How did I not know about the Milford decision? What a nightmare…

“Milford is a bad decision,” a lawyer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote to my husband. But it “is not going to be overturned right now. The lower courts will all follow it and the Supreme Court in its current configuration is not going to reverse itself on this issue.”

Help help.

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